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Cartography Then and Now

Updated on November 1, 2015

History of Map Making

There have been maps going back thousands of years. Cave men made crude maps on the sides of their caves.

A mere 600 years ago, the "finest" maps were so inaccurate that a modern person would have difficulty figuring out what part of the world was being mapped.

The word "cartography" has been assigned to map making, carrying forward the root word "carta" (map) from the ancient Roman era.

By the 1400's map makers were getting pretty good at depicting their immediate geographical area (such as a good map of Great Britain from that era). However, beyond that, they appeared to be at a loss. No good maps of all of Europe can be found from that era.

But some features stood out in maps even 2500 years old, such as the distinct "boot" shape of the country of Italy.

Maps of cities were fairly good even back as far as the 5th Century. There is a good map of the city of Rome from that era.

Multicolored maps began appearing around the 15th Century, with rivers, mountains, and dry lands depicted distinctly. But early maps sometimes were not oriented to the normal way of depicting geography, with north being on top. Sometimes north was the opposite, on the bottom. It depended on the style of cartography in a particular nation or region.

Often, early cartographers tried to place too many written worlds on their maps, blurring the distinctiveness of the map.

Latitudes began to be depicted in the 16th Century as the compass came into mainstream usage around the world. Extremely accurate maps of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (Asia Minor) began appearing in the early 1500's. But the Americas and the Far East still were very unknown.

But by the late 1500's maps depicted both the Americas and the Far East fairly well, thanks to the brave explorers of that century. The first true atlases of the world began to appear.

The accuracy improved steadily until today Google Earth actually shows a true picture of the world, region by region, even street by street.

New Ways to Make Maps

New Ways are Available for Designing Maps
There are electronic mapping tools available. Maps can be constructed interactively to your specifications. Computer-aided map design is beginning to enter a new era thanks to the imaginations of technical inventors who have applied new techniques to the profession of mapping. Easy map-making software is available for map design projects. Special artistic skills are not required.

How The New Map Designing Works
Thanks to computerization, immediate data can be captured from Google Maps, or imported from photos and other desirable map additions stored in your computer. Lines and arrows can be added to and within particular streets, buildings and other areas. Hyperlinks can be inserted onto your map also, which will open up wonderful views and presentations, if you choose to incorporate these things.
Modern techniques for map design are easy to use and require no special knowledge. The map can be edited with no problem.
Snap shot pictures can be brought in, for insertion into your map. You can add paths onto the map, showing best routes to follow to get from one place to some other location .
You will find lots of techniques to tailor a map using new software specifically designed for this purpose. Arrows can be put in. Backgrounds can be changed at will.

Zooming in and out become possibilities. Also, buildings, highways, or areas that you want to highlight, as belonging to one county, or department, or a particular activity, can be grouped together by shading and coloring designs, as added features through your new ability to make cartography work the way you want it to work.

What Are the Advantages?
Technically enhanced maps can save time for all people on and off the road. Adding realism through actual photographs of buildings and landscape features, can be an instant communication tool now available to map design professionals and amateurs alike. Virtually every traveler will be able to take a tour of the route and destination over his or her computer screen before traveling to the destination at all.

All the photos and spectacular colors in modern map design at present, due to technical advancements, have created great impressions on map readers, tourists, and researchers in many walks of life from the largest corporations planning conventions to the small families going on vacation. Users of new maps are able to explore certain locations through advanced features allowing virtual reality to be a part of a map-reading session which, a few years ago, would have been only a tedious task of looking through a two-dimensional map to find the right route, or some spot at which to arrive.
Great designing can offer even links to videos of highly desired activities of interest, such as professional team sports. Multimedia presentations can take place by simply clicking on the map at certain locations.
With such personalized features available through technology, you can enjoy tremendous success with the creation of spectacular maps that impress everyone. They will be wonderful additions to any website requiring directions or tours via computer.

Example of Interactive Map--On the Internet you can find a map of the USA that will allow children to learn the names and capitols of each state, just by putting the cursor on the state.

What Map is Best?

Despite novelty, the new kind of map might not be best for everyone. Some people rarely need maps and will depend on the old way of using paper maps sold at gas stations. Whatever works best for the individual is the right kind of map. Other people draw their own maps after listening to directions or reading them on the internet. By drawing a map oneself, the route is more embedded in the memory than it would be by printing the map and not studying it carefully before starting to drive somewhere.

Each person finds his or her own best way, same as with everything else in life.


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